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Can an Xray Make me Radioactive?

The short answer is no.  Most medical and dental xray machines do not approach the energy levels needed to alter the structure of an atoms nucleus.  However, high energy gamma rays (created in matter  and antimatter collisions) or extremely high energy xrays may transmute normal atoms into radioactive ones. 

There is one type of radiation that can make normal isotopes and elements radioactive, and that is neutron radiation.  Neutrons radiation is rarely created on earth though.  Certain radioactive elements found in nature like uranium, will every once in a while release a neutron due to spontaneous fission, and these are so few and far between that they rarely will interact with other atoms.  The sun and other stars however, release many neutrons due to fusion reactions.   However, rarely do those neutrons reach earth. 

As for man made neutrons, certain elements, like Beryllium and Aluminum, will release a neutron when struck by alpha particles.  Hydrogen bombs will also release quite a few neutrons also, making anything surrounding the explosion radioactive. Neutrons are also released in fusion reactors (which unfortunately are not a viable energy source at this time), such as the Farnsworth Fusor. 

So why do people feel that an xray can make them radioactive?  My best guess is a lack of knowledge about Xrays and radiation, and bad press, and cold war fear.  Many radioactive elements and isotopes will easily contaminate a person or any object through contact.  Sometimes they will react and chemically bind to a metal object.  If they are inhaled or ingested, they will remain in the body for years.  Any object that has been contaminated is then radioactive.

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